Know the Major Food Risk Factors

The CDC estimates that 1 in 6 people become ill from foodborne illnesses each year. Keep your family healthy by understanding the following risk factors:

Watch Out for the Temperature Danger Zone
Bacteria grow most quickly between 41ºF and 135ºF in at risk foods such as raw meats, eggs, dairy products, cooked pasta and vegetables, and cream-based pastries/desserts. Minimize dangerous temperatures by:

Be food safe in the kitchen.
  • Putting food away right after receiving or preparation
  • Working with small batches
  • Keeping raw meats and poultry on ice during preparation
  • Cooling and reheating cooked foods rapidly

How do you know if you're keeping foods out of the danger zone? At home, follow the temps listed on Food Safety Basics” (750K PDF). In a commercial kitchen, hold hot and cold foods at the temps recommended in our Gold Standard manual (2MB PDF).

Cook Meat and Seafood to Safe Internal Temperatures
Meat, poultry and seafood needs to be cooked to safe internal temperatures as determined by the USDA (for consumers) and the FDA (for food service professionals).

At home, follow the temps listed on Food Safety Basics” (750K PDF). In a commercial kitchen, cook meats to the temps recommended in our Gold Standard manual (2MB PDF). Always check doneness with a food thermometer.

Avoid Cross-Contamination
Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria are transferred from one food to another. Be sure to:

  • Wash, rinse and sanitize all contact surfaces, including cutting boards, knives and equipment
  • Separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from each other and ready-to-eat foods
  • Wipe up spills from raw meat, poultry and seafood with paper towels
  • Spray countertops and cutting boards with sanitizer after cleaning for added protection
  • Wash hands often to prevent bacteria and viruses from getting into food

Practice Proper Refrigeration
Organize your fridge to prevent cross-contamination:

  • Store cooked and ready-to-eat foods above raw meat, fish and poultry
  • Store foods that require a higher cooking temp to kill bacteria beneath those that require a lower cooking temp

Taste Test Safely
Never taste uncooked eggs, fish, meat or poultry or foods made with them before they are cooked to the proper temperature. (This includes raw cookie dough.) Also, do not taste food with hands or with a spoon that is used for cooking. Make sure spoons are clean and only used once.

Back to the Food Safety Fundamentals.

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